Sources of Hazards in the Workplace

Hazards may arise from

  • The workplace environment e.g. insufficient lighting
  • Equipment/Plant e.g. a noisy engine which has not been insulated
  • Substances e.g. explosive fumes building up in a storage area; and
  • Work systems e.g. storage of files at high level causing retrieval hazards

Examples of work related hazards and risks

a) Use of work equipment

  • Inadequately guarded rotating or moving parts which can crush, clip, stab, knock, catch or pull
  • Free movement of parts or material (falling, rolling, sliding, tipping, flying off, swinging, collapsing) which may result in a person being hit
  • Machine and vehicle movements
  • Danger of fire and explosion (e.g. from friction, pressure vessels)
  • Trapping

b) Work practices and layout of premises

  • Hazardous surfaces (sharp edges, corners, points, rough surfaces, protruding parts)
  • Working at heights
  • Tasks involving awkward movement/postures
  • Limited space (e.g. having to work between fixed parts)
  • Tripping and slipping (wet or other slippery surfaces etc.)
  • Stability of workstation
  • Impact of wearing personal protective equipment on other aspects of work
  • Work techniques and methods
  • Entry and work in confined spaces

c) Use of electricity

  • Electrical switchgear
  • Electrical installations, e.g. ring mains, lighting circuits
  • Electrically-operated equipment, controls, insulation
  • Use of portable electric tools
  • Fire or explosion initiated by electrical energy
  • Overhead electric lines

d) Exposure to substances or preparations hazardous to health and safety

  • Inhalation, ingestion and skin absorption of material hazardous to health (including aerosols and particulates)
  • Use of flammable and explosive materials
  • Lack of oxygen (asphyxia)
  • Presence of corrosive substances
  • Reactive/unstable substances
  • Presence of sensitizers

e) Exposure to physical agents

  • Exposure to electromagnetic radiation (heat, light, x-ray, ionizing radiation)
  • Exposure to lasers
  • Exposure to noise, ultrasounds
  • Exposure to mechanical vibrations
  • Exposure to hot substances/media
  • Exposure to cold substances/media
  • Presence of fluids under pressure (compressed air, steam, liquids)

f) Exposure to biological agents

  • Risk of infection arising from handling and resulting in unintentional exposure to micro-organisms, exo- and endo- toxins
  • Risk of infection due to inadvertent exposure to micro-organisms (e.g. legio-nella dispersed from wet cooling towers)
  • Presence of allergens

g) Environmental factors and working climate

  • Inadequate or inappropriate illumination
  • Inappropriate control of temperature/humidity/ventilation
  • Presence of pollutants

h) Interaction of workplace and human factors

  • Dependence of safety system on need to receive and process information accurately
  • Dependence on knowledge and capabilities of staff
  • Dependence on norms of behaviour
  • Dependence on good communication and proper instructions to tackle changing conditions
  • Impact of reasonably foreseeable departures from safe working procedures
  • Suitability of personal protective equipment
  • Poor motivation to work safely
  • Ergonomic factors, such as design of the work station to suit the worker

i) Psychological factors

  • Severity of work (intensity, monotony)
  • Workplace dimensions, e.g. claustrophobia , working alone
  • Role ambiguity and/or conflict
  • Contribution to decision-making affecting work and task
  • High demand, low control of work
  • Reactions in event of emergencies

j) Work organization

  • Factors conditioned by work processes (e.g. continuity, shift systems, working at night)
  • Effective management systems and arrangements in place for organizing, planning, monitoring and controlling the health and safety process.
  • Maintenance of equipment including safety equipment
  • Proper arrangements for dealing with accidents and emergencies

k) Miscellaneous factors

  • Dangers caused by other people e.g. violence to counter staff, staff-security guards, police and sports
  • Working with animals
  • Working in pressurized or under-pressurized atmospheres
  • Severe weather conditions
  • Software integrity
  • Working near or under water
  • Variable workplaces

This is an illustrative list and is not exhaustive.

Source; The South African Labour Guide

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